Life at SMC

Floral Notes and Bardo: Florida Notes #2

By Travis Newbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident is a daily feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

Being in Florida is like post-meditation — rubber meeting the road.  Hot road.  Messy world.  Tenderness in everything, and a resistance to feeling it.  An impulse to fix it.  It’s painful to be in the midst of.  It’s painful to witness my habitual reactions.

…except for the consistently warm feelings I get whenever I see Fluff.


As soon as I arrived, I called Rachel, my teacher in Florida.  She said:

“Our whole practice is about not reacting.  All that practice that you do, this is what it’s for.  This is a great opportunity.”

I want to fix it.  I want to be triumphant! It’s not working.

“Being present in nowness is the only success you will achieve in this situation, if you want to call that success.”

In a recent talk at the Being Brave retreat, Pema Chödrön talked about living in a privileged, comfortable, spiritual bubble.   And she’s grateful to meet with people who are in the trenches because it punctures the bubble and keeps her from believing that everything is smooth.

Somehow, SMC is the trenches and the bubble.  Ever since I arrived there a couple of years ago, I’ve regarded it as a “macro meditation cushion.”  All the elements of my world are represented there (except for Florida), but it all occurs within a meditative, contemplative container.  So, it’s all very tangibly practice.

Out here in Florida, I have set up a shrine in the room where I’m staying, as a reference point, reminder.  There are reminders all over the place at SMC.  You can hardly turn a corner without seeing prayer flags, buddhas, teachers.  It’s easier to forget here in Florida.  So, it’s easier for me to get worked up, stupid, aggressive.

Sakyong talks about how culture affects us and we affect culture.  It’s interesting to look at Florida through that lens.  It’s tough here for me.  It’s not a prime situation for doing what I want to do, which is study and practice the dharma.

I feel freaked out here.  I see lots of freaked out people here.  I see lots of crap, nature is oppressed.

And, how am I affecting it?

Trungpa Rinpoche says that a fallen leaf can affect a stream.  So, rather than trying to “manhandle” the state of Florida, my task seems to be to abide in my heart — apply what I spend my life practicing.  Every encounter I have changes the situation.  So, basically, relaxing and doing my thing.  Be kind.  Refrain from trying to fix.

It’s sad.  I feel like Florida is f’d.  Really though, I think it’s not so bad.  F’d is my projection.  I ought to go jump in the ocean and enjoy my time here, letting it be what it is.  I can be glad that I don’t live here anymore.  I have a good home in Colorado.  A really good home.  I’m lucky.

— May 8, 2014


PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious dude on the path of artistry, meditation, and social engagement who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center. His roles within the organization include Marketing Associate and Head Dekyong–a position of leadership within the community.